The Current

B.C. ruling will 'dial down tension' on Trans Mountain, but not for long: professor

In a unanimous decision released Friday, the B.C. Court of Appeal says British Columbia does not have the right to impose environmental laws that could kill the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Attempt to regulate transport of bitumen defeated by B.C. Court of Appeal

B.C. and Alberta Premiers John Horgan and Jason Kenney have been at loggerheads over the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (CBC/Reuters)
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Friday's ruling that British Columbia cannot impose laws that could kill the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will diffuse tensions between B.C., and Alberta — but not for long, says an expert in environmental policy.

Premier John Horgan's government was attempting to introduce legislation to regulate the transport of "heavy oil" within B.C.'s borders — which could have effectively allowed it to kill the pipeline expansion project — but was defeated unanimously by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

"It's not going to go away, but it just dials the tensions around the pipeline down for a while," said George Hoberg, professor of environmental and natural resource policy at the University of British Columbia.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney had threatened to respond to B.C.'s attempts to block Trans Mountain, including a threat to "turn off the taps" and stop oil and gas exports to the West Coast.

The panel of five judges found that, if introduced, the amendments to B.C.'s Environmental Management Act would be in direct conflict with federal jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines. Following the ruling, B.C. Attorney General David Eby confirmed that the province will be appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court, very clearly, is saying today that on inter-provincial pipelines, the federal government of Canada gets to decide.- George Hoberg

"The court, very clearly, is saying today that on inter-provincial pipelines, the federal government of Canada gets to decide," Hoberg told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

"That takes away the major ammunition the province of British Columbia had to block the pipeline."

To discuss the ruling and what it means, Lynch was joined by:

  • George Hoberg, professor of environmental and natural resource policy at the University of British Columbia's Liu Institute for Global Issues.
  • Greg Rasmussen, CBC reporter who has been studying the court's decision.
  • Jack Woodward, constitutional lawyer who specializes in aboriginal rights and title.
  • Martha Hall Findlay, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. Produced by Ines Colabrese and Jessica Linzey.

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